Jennifer Geoghan

14 Feb 2016: So you want to write a novel … now what?

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve had many people tell me that they have a great idea for a novel.  Some say they’ll get around to it one day, some ask if I want to write it with them, some admit it will probably never get written. I’m often asked for advice on how to go about getting started.  Getting started is always the hardest part, even for me, an author who’s written seven novels.

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  • So how do you start?

First you need to start gathering your thoughts on paper.  Get a notebook and write headers on the top of several pages.  Headers Like “Plot,” “My Main Character,” “Subplot,” “Other Characters.” Really it’s the process of organizing all those thoughts that have been rambling around inside your head.  You think it will be easy to just sit down and write your book out without this step, but you’d be wrong.

  • Why on paper and not on a computer or other device?

Don’t discount the effect of paper and pen.  There’s something cathartic about writing with a pen or pencil that you’ll soon discover for yourself.  I suggest a portable notebook.  I use smaller ones that fit in my purse.  Believe me, you’ll want to have it with you at all times and inspiration tends to strike in the most unlikely of places.  I especially recommend you keep a pad and pen on your nightstand. How many times have I woken up in the middle of the night with a great idea and been too lazy to get up and write it down? … way too many times.  And then I wake up in the morning thinking … didn’t I have an idea last night? But I can’t remember exactly what it was.  Don’t be like me because it totally sucks.

Okay, let’s say you’ve started the above.

  • So when do I get to start writing my novel?

After you have a decent idea of your plot and a detailed description of your main characters, their physical descriptions, likes, dislikes, past history, the flesh on their bones, it’s time to start your outline. For me, my outlines are bullet point outlines, plot points I need to hit in a specific order so that I tell the story properly. This outline will evolve a lot from the moment I start writing till I finally type “the end.” It’s not chiseled in stone, it will evolve as your story evolves, but it helps you keep your eye on the prize.  It will be your guiding north star.

When you’re writing a novel, you need to feel as if you’re making headway, and being able to tick off another bullet point on your outline makes you feel as if you’re making progress and that in and of itself is encouragement to continue on. It is your light at the end of the writing tunnel.whats your story

  • So now I’m writing … now what?

My suggestion to not lose your momentum going and keep from getting bogged down to the point you give yourself writer’s block is to XXX it. Huh? you’re asking out loud as you scratch your head.  Yes, you read me right. When I’m writing out a scene and I come up to something that I’m not sure of, I xxx it, and go back to it later.  I’ll give you an example. In my current project, I had a sentence that went something like this:

“Doc Gibbs came by this afternoon and said he’s worried about the new calf, thinks he may have come down with XXX and he wants to come back tomorrow and give him a TREATMENT.”

My novel takes place on a ranch in Texas.  I’m from New York and live in Orlando. What do I know about Longhorn cattle? Nothing.  If I stopped to do the research on what could be wrong with a calf and what they’d have to do to treat it, I’d never get a book written.  I finished the first draft this week and spent a couple of days fixing the XXX’s and other issues like this.  These are things that aren’t really important to the story so I don’t even bother to stop to dwell on them while I’m writing.  I’ll have things like this: “After I order LUNCH ORDER, I handed her the menu back.” Don’t lose yourself in minutia.  I have news for you … your first draft will suck.  Get over it and know that you can always fix it in the editing.

Don’t expect perfection.  If you do, you’re doomed before you start.  Perfection is crafted from your first draft.  Your first draft will have lots of issues that need fixing.  I can’t stress enough that you need to leave expectations of “The Great American Novel” at the doorstep. All you can hope is that your first draft shows potential.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attack your first draft with gusto, it only means that if you agonize over every sentence, you’ll never get to THE END.  You’ll get so discouraged by chapter two that you’ll never bother to finish.

first-draft

  • So I finally finished my first draft.  No what?

Congratulations! The first thing I do is try to catch the easy things before I really dig deep.  In my word document, I use the “Find” feature and look for things I know I commonly type wrong.  Having just typed your novel, I’m sure you probably know what your typing foibles are. Mine are that for some reason, I tend to type an extra ‘ after the “t” in a contracted word.  – didn’t’ –  Don’t ask why, I have no idea why I do it.  I also type “because” as “becuase”, transposing the a and u.  I type “the” as “teh” a lot.  Not to mention that I also have issues with tenses.  I write in first person narrative and find that I can stray from writing in a past tense to a present tense.  Example: “I take the book he hands me and smile.” When I really should have typed “I took the book he handed me and smiled.” Again, I have no idea why this happens.  This is also when you go back and fix your XXX’s and Capped letter issues.

When you feel as if you have a good grasp on these kinds of issues, for me, this is when I print the first twenty or so pages and start to read.  Reading on paper and not off a screen is very helpful to me.  Maybe it won’t be for you, but I recommend you try.  It’s another perspective, one that your reader will have, so it’s worth taking a step back to look through their eyes. I like to make hand written notes on paper then enter them on the word doc. In this first 20 pages you’ll start to see other issues you missed.  After that just keep editing.

I usually read through, editing as I go, at least three times through the whole book.  At this point, I email the doc to my Kindle and let the text to speech feature on my Kindle read my book to me.  Believe me, you will find even more typos and issues.  Hearing it out loud is going to blow your mind.

After I listen to it two or three times, I think my books are ready for someone else’s eyes.  WARNING: Be careful who you give it to. I’ve had issues where you give it to them and a month later they haven’t even started it yet.  Find someone who has the time to sit down read it now.  Gently give them a deadline in which you’d like it back.  I’d also provide them with a sheet containing a guideline of what you’re looking for.  They are most likely not a professional editor and need your guidance here. Tell them you’re looking for typos, grammatical errors, inconsistencies in the plot, anything that confuses them or doesn’t make sense.  Some people are naturally good editors, many are not.  Your close family man not be your best choices.  Don’t give it to someone who is just going to hand it back and say “That was lovely, dear.”

Once you get it back, incorporate what notations you received and thought made sense to change.

first-draft1

  • Set goals for yourself.

It would have taken me a decade to write my first novel if I hadn’t of set daily quotas on myself.  10 pages a day to start with.  As the story gets written, it gets easier to write.  By the end, my quota was 25-30 pages a day. If I didn’t meet my quota one day, the missing pages got added to the next days quota.  For example, I write 8 pages today means I have to write 12 tomorrow.  It was a mental way for me to stay on track.  I increased the quota when I found it was too easy to meet and I was exceeding it.

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  • Don’t get married to anything in your novel!

I gave a short story I wrote to a friend to read/edit last week.  She gave me back some good notes.  One being that she thought the ending was too quick and she gave me a suggestion on away to prolong the plot twist. I thought about it, and she was right. I made a few modifications and it really flows much better now. If I’d been stubborn and thought the baby that was my story was perfect just the way any mother would think her child was, I’d have been holding it back from being all that it could be.

  • What about all these fancy writing computer programs?

Don’t get sucked into the mentality that a computer program will help you write a book. People were doing it with feather quills and writing masterpieces of the English language long before the advent of the computer age.  I use MS Word and do just fine.  If you’re trying to write your first book, believe me, that is hard enough without tossing learning a new computer program into the mix.  Concentrate on writing, not fiddling with the newest software. I promise you, the software isn’t going to write your book for you while you slumber at night.

Well, that’s my advice on how to get started. I could go on and on and on about the subject, and I’m sure I will in future posts.

Happy writing!

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

7 Feb 2016: More Book Covers I Like

It’s time for another installation of “Book Covers I Like.” As I’ve said before, it’s just WAYYY too easy to find book covers that I don’t think come quite up to scratch.  So instead I offer up a collection of book covers that I think hit the mark.

And so we begin….

#1: Starflight by Melissa Landers: What’s not to like? The image is strong, the typography seems spot on. The motion of the image carries you up to the title and is interesting enough that I really want to know what that ship is. and who’s on it.

Starflight by Melissa Landers

Starflight by Melissa Landers

#2: Naming the bits Between by Jessica M. Collette: I really love the treatment of the title here, very creative. It’s a very simplistic image, but it’s the intriguing way they incorporate the title that is the eye-catching feature here.  This is a great example of how a title can be the cover.  Don’t feel as if you have to have this super strong image for your cover or else you’re doomed.  This image is very relaxed, but fits perfectly.

Naming the Bits Between by Jessica M. Collette

Naming the Bits Between by Jessica M. Collette

#3: He will be my ruin by K.A. Tucker: I’ll admit it, this cover reminds me of the movie Titanic, that whole rolling around with Jack in the car down in the cargo hold scene.  But still, he will be her ruin …. the question is how? The cover is actually kind of subtle, leaving a lot to the imagination and with a title like that, I think it just helps add to the mystery.

He will be my Ruin by K.A. Tucker

He will be my Ruin by K.A. Tucker

#4: if i knew by JS Cooper:  I love this cover because it shows that someone was thinking outside the box.  If I saw this book on a bookstore shelf, I might pick it up for no other reason than to straighten it up.  You really have to have the right photo image to do this treatment.  If her arm wasn’t angled up like that, I don’t think this would have worked.  I’ll admit it … I want to know what she should have known!

If I Knew by JS Cooper

If I Knew by JS Cooper

#5: A Sudden Gust of Gravity by Lauri Boris: Based on the title or cover alone, I have no idea what this book is about, and yet I’m curious. Is it about a juggler? Has she travelled to space and left the surly bonds of Earth’s gravity behind? Could be, but I doubt it. I love how the image pulls your eye in all directions, roaming over every inch of the cover.  This is hard to accomplish and give the cover designer props for pulling it off and not having it distract from the overall goal of a book cover

A Sudden Gust of Gravity by Lauri Boris

A Sudden Gust of Gravity by Lauri Boris

#6: Doll Parts by Azzurra Nox: It took a second or two to realize she was staring at me … which kinda creeped me out … and now she’s like the Mona Lisa, staring at me no matter where I stand.  I’m glad they used a very simple font for the title.  Anything more would have been too much.  The image of the “doll” carries so much weight that anything more in the title would have been competing and in the ends detracting from the cover as a whole.

Doll Parts by Nox

Doll Parts by Azzurra Nox

#7: The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman: WOW! What a striking cover.  It’s sort of distracting in its own way, but that distraction seems oh so appropriate when you read the title.  This louvered concept is genius to me.

The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

#8: Pax by Sara Pennypacker: This cover seems alive, as if it’s an animation still and someone is about to hit play and it will suddenly come to life before my eyes.  I give Jon Klassen credit for this since he’s the illustrator. It’s a subdued image, somber in its coloring, but it’s the peacefulness of it that draws me in. It’s almost as if something is about to happen, a peaceful tension I guess you could call it.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

#9: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine: Yes, I know … the TV show Once Upon a Time has overkilled the apple image for a queen, but I still like this creative use of it. It’s a twist I enjoy for a few reasons.  One is subtly.  How do you say snow white without saying snow white? Have a snowy white background. There’s a boldness to this image that I enjoy.  Had they had just the apple alone and the title elsewhere, this would not have worked half as well.

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

#10: Dead in Deep Water by Dave Sivers: We’ve seen docks before.  This is not a new image for a book cover, but it’s the way the designer uses the typography in conjunction with the image that is what I like.  It’s not subtle, but still it’s simple.  However, I do not think the cover would have been as effective if the man was centered in the image.

Dead in Deep Water by David Sivers

Dead in Deep Water by Dave Sivers

#11: Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey: Romance novel covers are a bitch to create and not have a shirtless man on the front.  You want romance that pulls the reader’s eye away from the 1000 other romance novels they’re perusing and we all know sex sells, or in this case, sexy men.  I love the color manipulation of this image, the antiquated look of the modern couple.  It’s very in keeping with the “Time Capsule” part of the title. I especially love the font they used for “Paris,” very Parisian.

Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey

Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey

One think I noticed while typing up this blog entry was how many of the authors chose to put “A Novel” after the title of their novels. I find this a little puzzling. Did they think I’d have a hard time figuring that out? The only reason I can think to do so was if there was another book up for sale on Amazon called “The Teleportation Accident” which was actually a non-fiction book retelling the account of an actual teleportation accident.  Naturally, if you want to name your novel the same title of a book that is already up for sale (which I would not recommend to begin with) you’d put “A Novel” after your’s so no one confused the books.  But even if I did that, I’d leave the “a Novel” off the book cover.  Just saying ….

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Do you have any book covers that you think are head and shoulders above the maddening crowd of only so-so ones?  If so, I’d love to hear about them!  Click on “Leave A Comment” and share!

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

1 Jan 2016: How to create a book cover for CreateSpace

YEAH! I finally got my book cover accepted by CreateSpace.  It only took FIVE attempts! So with this in mind, I thought I’d supplement CreateSpace’s rather sketchy instructions with my own journey.

So to start, you go on CreateSpace and download the template which will be the exact size for your book size, the number of pages in your book and book type.  In my case this was 5.5 by 8.5, 454 pages and black and white interior on white pages. The finished product you upload onto CreateSpace has to be a PDF but you can download the template as a PDF and I think a TIFF. This was mine:

BookCover5_5x8_5_BW_460

Before you start, you’ll need to have a barcode that’s hooked up to your book’s ISBN number.  If you just take the FREE ISBN number that CreateSpace offers, I’m not sure how that works.  Since I’m a writer who wants to keep control of my book, I chose to buy my own ISBN from Bowker and purchased my barcode from them as well.  On Bowker’s website, you tie the barcode to the ISBN for you book.  You’ll need the barcode you then download off their site to insert onto the back cover. Why did I buy one instead of take the free one? Becuase if Amazon isn’t the big deal anymore and I want to move my book to the new and better online book retailer, you can’t take that free ISBN with you.  GOTCHA! Yep, that’s how they hook you and keep you on their site.

If you’re already designed the cover for the Ebook as I had, you’ll then need to start by creating the back cover and a spine.  To do the back cover, I took the book blurb I had on Amazon for the ebook and jazzed it up a bit to be appealing to someone picking up the paperback.  I also designed it to match well with the cover art. As with my covers, I used a combination of programs to create my back cover and spine.  I used my Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and the online program of http://www.picmonkey.com. As instructed on the template, I placed my barcode in the area indicated.

Back cover for blog

Back Cover of my book

Book Spine Image

Book Spine Image

For the front cover, the image was pretty close to the dimensions the template indicated so I just stretched it out to fill the required area.  Thankfully, it didn’t mess with the image itself in an undesirable way. Here’s what I then saved as a PDF and uploaded to CreateSpace along with my book interior:

Attempt #1

Attempt #1

I was then notified that though my book interior had been accepted (YAHOO!!!) by book cover had been rejected.  Not understanding the goblygook techno speak of the email, I had CreateSpace call me from the help page.  The gal who I talked to said the back and spine were fine, but the cover image needed to extend into the pink area so they’d have some trim to play with. I specifically asked about the pink trim area.  Were you supposed to see it in the image I uploaded?  In reply, she SPECIFCALLY said YES. (This is important later on) This sounded odd to me, but seemed an easy fix.  I then redid the cover to allow for some area on the top, bottom and right side for them to trim off if need be without ruining the artistic integrity of the cover image. Here’s what I then uploaded to replace Attempt #1:

Attempt #2

Attempt #2

A day later I got the email saying that this image had been accepted.  I then ordered a hard copy proof which arrived a few days later in the mail.

P1050452

Spine ImageI thought the cover looked fine, but the title on the spine seemed a little high when it got trimmed.  Wasn’t sure why it was trimmed when the cover wasn’t?!?!?! But whatever.  I tweaked the spine and uploaded the new and improved cover to CreateSpace.

Attempt #3

Attempt #3

There was no reason this one should be rejected, right?  WRONG! Even though I really hadn’t changed anything, it was indeed rejected.  Come on, REALLY! So again I spoke to CreateSpace. This time they told me that all the edges had to be even, that the front over was bigger than the spine and back.  I politely told the lady that the other gal I’d spoken to told me to do it this way and that it had been approved and printed before like this.  After a brief hold she told me that it had mistakenly been approved before, that it should have been rejected. WTF! So doing as she said, I trimmed the cover image and uploaded Attempt #4:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00048]

Attempt #4

And the next morning I got the email saying it was rejected.  At this point I was pretty pissed to say the least.  So again I had CreateSpace call me, and believe it or not, I got the same lady I’d spoken to the day before! She then proceeded to tell me it was rejected because you’re not supposed to have any of the pink trim area showing!  Yeah, refer to my first conversation with them above where they specifically said I was supposed to leave the pink in.  Honestly, I’d have had this done with attempt #2 if the CreateSpace help folks knew anything.  I hate to say they don’t have a clue … but …

Anyway, she said I needed to cover all the pink trim area with the image and that they’d “possibly” trim that off in the printing process.  So again, I went back to the drawing board.  The spine was fine, but I wasn’t sure the back could take the trim without it looking odd.  So I expanded the black on the sides so the text wasn’t so close to possible trim areas.  The front had to be redone as well.  I was afraid the work PURITY was too close to the edge and a trim on the side would put it right on the edge.  I also lowered my name at the top and raised up Vol I from the bottom.  Basically I learned that you have to add areas around the edges that can be cut from the image and you won’t cry about. Yes, this sucks, but it seems to be the way it is.

My other problem at this point was that the way I was saving it as a PDF wasn’t going to work anymore.  Per a friend’s suggestion, I’d downloaded a program called CutePDF that allowed me to hit print on an image and it would save it as a PDF for me.  This was fine, except that the PDF needed to be formatted to a page size as if it were really being printed. For example, see the white bars at the top and bottom? With them added, the doc is standard Letter Size for printing. Can’t have those bars this time.

Margins Example

So I broke down and bought a subscription to Adobe Acrobat so I could create a PDF without those white bars. And so I uploaded attempt #5:

Attempt #5

Attempt #5

Attempt #5 was accepted!! But with all this going on I thought it prudent to order another proof.  So this came in the mail. The left cover is the new one.  You can see where I moved the text for my name down and Purity to the left . It looks fine.  The one thing I wasn’t expecting was for the hair to look so different since I hadn’t changed that at all.  When it was printed the second time, it’s redder and little fuzzy.  It’s not horrible, but I much prefer the first printing.  The spine looked much better on the second proof.

Second Book

2nd Proof on Left — 1st Proof on Right. It’s hard to tell but the coloring is different. Left one is redder than Right.

 

Second Book Spine

First Proof on Top — Second Proof on Bottom with adjusted text.

And so I approved the proof yesterday and according to CreateSpace it should be up for sale on Amazon in 3-5 days. YEAH.

In conclusion, I hope this helps someone who is looking to do a print version of their book with CreateSpace.  I certainly had to learn the hard way and hope that my experiences will help someone else’s experience go better than mine did.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

25 Dec 2015: … End of Year Status Report

I started this blog to keep folks up to date on what’s happening with Jennifer Geoghan Novels and to share what I’m learning on my long and winding path to the Nobel Prize for Literature. So with that in mind, today I thought I’d give a status report on where things stand today.

After self publishing six ebooks, I’m finally venturing into the world of paperbacks.  It was an arduous task to format my book from ebook format to an acceptable print format, but it’s finally done! The things I learned doing that gargantuan task better serve me well in life! Adapting the cover gave me a few headaches, mostly because CreateSpace, who I’m doing the paper version with, had a hard time with the concept of a letter being cut off in the title of the book.  Here’s what I mean:

The Purity of BloodThe end of the “d” in blood is off frame.  Duh .. It’s called artistic, it’s supposed to be.  I finally got them to approve the cover and received the hard copy proof in the mail yesterday. It looked pretty good but I found two things I wanted to adjust.  I’ve now re-uploaded and am waiting for CreateSpace to approve.  So with any luck, I’ll have the paperback out for sale in a few days.

Createspace

Lesson Learned: My book is too long to be of any good for sale as a paperback 😦

At 454 pages, a 5.5 by 8.5 page size and charging what I consider the max I can logically charge of $12.99 a copy, my royalties will be only $1.50 a book.  Not only that, if I were to jump onto CreateSpace’s expanded distribution (where it becomes available to retailers) my royalties would be that I owe CreateSpace $1.10 per book.  Yeah, you read that right, I OWE THEM MONEY!?!?! To not owe them money, I’d have to charge $15.75 a copy which let’s face it, what retailer would pay that much for a book?  In the end although Expanded Distribution sounds good … it didn’t make any sense for this book.

On the flip side … at $12.99 a book, if my book was only 360 pages (not 454) I could do the expanded distribution and get a profit of 2 cents a book.  Again … what’s the point if I’m only making 2 cents? Andy again, who’d pay $12.99 for a book that was only 360 pages?

Anyway … My goal was to have it out in paperback before the end of the year so it looks like I’ll be meeting that goal. I’ve also started formatting If Love is a Lie so that I can get that one out as well.  I don’t expect to sell a whole bunch of books in paperback, but want to be able to have them to sell myself at book fairs this spring.

Along with that, I’m also in the market for a printer to print up promotional bookmarks to have as giveaways at my table at book fairs and also some sort of a banner or sign for my table. Still working on that one.

While doing all of the above, I’ve still been writing my next novel too! No rest for the weary here.  I’m about 60-70% of the way done on it.  I’m heading up to St. Augustine this Saturday to do some location scouting.  I’m thinking of having the big ending there.  We’ll see what I find location wise, if anything strikes me enough to write it in the book.

This book I’m working on now I’m not planning on publishing right away.  I’m going to use it as my book to send out to agents to see if I can snag me an agent with it.  I’ll give it six months. If I haven’t had any interest in that time period, I’ll go ahead and self pub it and move on.

I’ve also written a short story I’d like to submit to literary magazines and contests.  I just need to polish it up a little.

So all in all 2015 was a good year.  Despite some hardships, I’ve prevailed and am still working on furthering my career in proactive and purposeful ways.

Goals

What’s next for 2016? I’d like to get all my books formatted for paperback.  I’d like to have signed with a literary agent and be on the way to traditionally publishing my current novel project. I’d like to have been published in a Lit Magazine and have another book self published in my already published series.  Will all this happen? Here’s hoping so!

So how was your 2105?  Did you accomplish all you set out to?

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

22 Dec 2015: ..The Quilt Test … Do your characters stand up?

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but among my many hobbies, I’m also a quilter. Well, quilter might not be the correct term, I’m more of a fabric artist.  I make wall hangings and tablecloths mostly.  I’m currently collecting fabrics to make a wall hanging piece about my The Purity of Blood novel series.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Well … Each of my main characters in the books is going to have their own block in the quilt. The fabrics in the blocks will somehow be descriptive of the characters personality, likes, dislikes, major events, etc.  I started to make a list of what fabrics I already had and what I could look for and in doing this I realized some characters were easier to make a list for than others. I kind of got to think that this has something to do with the depth of the characters themselves.  The better written ones had easier lists to write.

For example, let’s take Sara, my protagonist. Her fabric list goes something like this:

  • Apple Fabric (she loves anything with apples in it.)
  • Guns/Weapons fabric (represents her extensive weapons training)
  • Sweet Pea fabric (her pet name from Daniel)
  • Sail Boat Fabric (she loves sailing and goes sail on her honeymoon)
  • DNA helix fabric (Because it’s her DNA that sets her apart from other humans)

Sara was pretty easy, but some other characters not so much.  I was working on this so much of the past weekend that I kind of got to thinking about my current book project.  If I was going to do a quilt block say about my new hero, Travis, what would it include?  Do I have enough depth to his character that I’d be able to come up with a quick list of his traits, likes, dislikes, hobbies? It’s something to think about, a litmus test of sorts to see how well you’ve written a character.  I’m going to call this the “Quilt Test” from now on.

So how do your characters stand up to the Quilt Test?

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

15 Nov 2015: The Ups and Downs of Formatting

Since I started working on formatting my first novel from an ebook format to a format that I can upload to createspace for a paperback edition, I’ve been a little obsessed with looking at how every book I come across is formatted.  I’ve seen some books that have given me ideas … as well as a few books that simply amaze me in how anyone could think they look pleasing to the eye.

Example:  My day job that pays the bills is at a hotel.  This book was given to me by a housekeeper who found it.  Yes, I’m the girl everyone gives books to.  Some I read, the others I put in hotel library.  This book (see below) looked like a really interesting story, but the formatting is really weird.  By weird, I mean there is a LOT of formatting.  There’s that big black bar where the chapter number is.  It’s okay, but there are like a hundred chapters.  That’s a LOT of black bars!  Then you add in the super large letter for the first word (Which is in the center of the page?!?!) Personally I’d have gone with either the back bar or the large letter.  Both is a bit much.  Now let’s add in that the first letter of the first word of EVERY PARAGRAPH in the ENTIRE BOOK is drop case letter.  You can see it on the chapter header page as well as three more times a few pages later.  Those letters are on almost ever page.  In my opinion, this is formatting over kill.

Formatting 1Formatting 2

It’s not only paper books I’ve been looking at.  I got an ebook on my kindle last week that wasn’t even formatted to be an ebook.  Take a look:

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This ebook was uploaded in what I suspect was the standard manuscript format, double spaced.  Sadly because it was double spaced, I didn’t read it.  I would have had to have made the font so small to get enough words on a single page that it would have been really hard for me to read.  Let’s not even talk about my mother!  Oh, you want to talk about her?  Okay, well Mom likes big print books.  Let’s see this book through her eyes:

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Yeah, Mom’s lucky if she get’s two sentences per page!  This is why you don’t double space ebooks. If you’re not an ebook reader, here’s the first page of one of my ebooks for comparison:

P1040848The double spaced book also has the word CHAPTER in a blue font which looks odd and it’s not even centered properly at the top of the page.  I can look the other way on the mis-centering (I actually see that one in a lot of ebooks) but the double spacing would give my hand a work out with it having to swipe to a new page every 15 seconds.   I’ll also add that I was a little pissed about this book for another reason.  I don’t buy ebooks that are listed on Amazon as less that 150 pages.  If a book is any shorter than that, they didn’t have enough time to develop decent characters or plot so why waste my time.  By double spacing the book, it doubled the page count thereby misleading me to think it was a book of decent length.

Here’s another book someone at the hotel gave me.

P1040845The formatting is nice, even though the book was a bit much for me to read.  Any book that has so many made up words that you feel the need to put a glossary of them at the back of the book … well, that’s a bit too much for me to bother to keep straight while I’m trying to read it.  Notice they put a little curly cue design with the chapter number.  It’s nice.  Not so sure I’d put it on my book, but it’s something different.  This book is what I’d call a romantic fantasy so maybe it fits.

Anyway, just thought I’d share some of my observations.  Have you seen any books/ebooks with unusual formatting?  If so, let’s hear about them!

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

14 Nov 2015: More things I’ve probably done wrong. Have you?

No one is perfect.

At one point or another we’ve all made mistakes.  Below are a few things I’ve probably spelled wrong or misused in my haste to extricate my novels from my head.

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I’ve messed this first one up a few times. Stupid spell check won’t catch it. Had to wait until my kindle read it back to me to hear the error of my ways.

  • Vicious: She’s spreading vicious lies about you.
  • Viscous: Viscous oil doesn’t drain well from my car.
  • Underway: This is a nautical term for a ship that is not tethered to anything.
  • Under way: meaning in motion. The project, which had been underway for a few months, was anticipated to end soon.
  • Waive: Like an idiot, he waived his right to a jury trial.
  • Wave: She waved her hand good-bye.

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  • Troop: A group of people, animals or things. A troop of girls scouts hounded me for hours to buy their cookies.
  • Troupe: This is a cast of touring performers. The dance troupe was horrible and I was amazed anyone came to see them.
  • Throes: They were lost in the throes of passion.
  • Throws: Donald throws the ball at Goofy with malice.
  • There’re!  Ok, when I saw this, maybe my education was REALLY bad, but I don’t think I’ve ever used this variation of there. But apparently you can contract here are. There’re two reasons why I should kill you right now.
  • Tact: It’s a sensitivity to what is appropriate when dealing with others. She fired him with tact.
  • Tack: Another nautical term meaning a course. The best tact was to wait until sundown to kill him. It’s also like a thumb tack.
  • T-Shirt: Seems you’re always supposed to spell it out this way “T-Shirt” with a capital T because when lain flat it looks like a capital T.
  • Stationary: When she broke his heart, he stood stationary.
  • Stationery: Staple sells stationery for writing letters to your mother.

Have any of these ever messed you up?

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

The Blood that Binds Cover Art 7-30-2015

11 Nov 2015 … Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up

As I said yesterday, I had jury duty on Monday.  While there I was reminded of that old adage that truth indeed is stranger than fiction, and sometimes you hear things come out of people’s mouths that if a character in a book had said them … well, no one would believe it.

  • Case in point.

When they first started to eliminate folks from our jury pool, the first round of questions they asked us was only two questions.  Is English your native language, and is there anyone here that it would be a hardship for to be a juror on this trial since it’s going to last over a week.  Some of the excuses I heard were so funny that I literally had to cover my mouth with my hand to keep from laughing out loud.  The defendant and one of his lawyers caught me like this on several occasions throughout the day which was a bit embarrassing as it was a serious proceeding, but read below and try to imagine if you could keep a straight face.

Excuse #1:  Juror:  “I have a dentist appointment.”

Judge: “Did you say you have an appointment with a dentist?  Isn’t that something you could reschedule?”

Juror: “No ma’am.  Breathing the air in this courtroom hurts. I can’t be here.”

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Always happy to help you get out of jury duty if I can!

Excuse #2: Little old Hispanic man Juror: “I gotta pee all the time, like every twenty minutes!”

Judge: “Do you have to go now?”

Juror: “YES!”

Judge: “Okay, well we’ll be taking a break in a few minutes.”untitledExcuse #3: Juror: “I have an MRI appointment.”

Judge: “What day is it?”

Juror: “Oh, I haven’t scheduled it yet.”

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Seriously?  And they said all this completely deadpan, not a smile was cracked.  If I wrote these lines into a book no one would believe them!  They’d say it was too unbelievable, but God as my witness I heard all three of these.  Now do you understand why my crazy psycho killer kept catching me trying not to laugh???

It really makes me wonder why some folks like to get so picky about saying things in books aren’t believable, because I’ve seen and heard things in my life that are so much stranger than any fiction written.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

I’d love to hear from you!

Click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

10 Nov 2015: So Close … and yet so Far … My day with a Psycho Killer

Psycho Killer
Qu’est-ce que c’est
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better
Run run run run run run run away

No one says it like the Talking Heads.  I remember dancing around and singing that song at the top of my lungs with my friend Christy in her bedroom back in the 80’s with hair brushes as microphones.  Who would have thought back then that yesterday I would have spent the day in the same room as a real life ‘Psycho Killer.’

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Yesterday I had jury duty.  I was at the Orange County Courthouse in downtown Orlando in the Jury waiting room at 8 a.m. and ended up getting called for the first jury pool to be sent up stairs.  I spent all day with 50 other perspective jurors being questioned by the lawyers for the state and the defense as well as the judge.  By the end of the day they’d widdled it down to about 35 of us to choose their 14 person jury from.

So from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., I sat right across from the defendant.  Since I wasn’t picked for the jury, I’m now free to tell you that it was Elmer Banner of Lake Nona, FL.  What is Mr. Banner accused of?  I’ll let a local news website give you the details:

As Elmer Banner sits in the Orange County Jail, charged with murdering his wife and mother-in-law, newly-released police interviews detail bizarre activities in the family’s Lake Nona home days before the alleged attack.

“He began to preach to the family, yelling and screaming Bible stories,” Banner’s 14-year-old son told detectives. Banner had never been openly religious, according to the teen.

But on Feb. 18(2012), the day before the shootings, the son said Banner began talking about a “family curse,” according to police reports.

Another family member told detectives Banner bought white T-shirts for himself, his wife Debra, his two teenage sons and his in-laws, who were also living at the house. That night, Banner gathered the family together in the living room to hold hands while he told Bible stories for more than five hours, according to reports.

“He’s never done that before,” said the son in the police report.

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Banner also discussed his desire to visit a nearby body of water, said the teen.

“He talked about Lake Nona being the fountain of youth,” his son said.

Around 7 p.m. the next evening, after returning home from a movie, Banner called his 14-year-old son into the garage.

“He opens the breaker box and flips every switch off,” according to the report, so the house was dark. Banner then ordered everyone to go to bed, according to the son. “He says, ‘No one pee, no one do anything, just go to bed.'”

A short time later, the teen said his father entered his bedroom and handed him an antique 9mm Luger as Banner held a .45-caliber handgun.

“He was talking about judgment,” said the teen. “He’s like, ‘It’s time, it’s time,'” as the two walked downstairs.

“He told me, ‘Stay behind me. I’m your protector. I’m going to protect you. You’re the Chosen One,'” said the teen.

As Banner and his son approached the garage, they were confronted by Banner’s mother-in-law, Carol Minich.

The teen said his dad shot the 70-year-old woman in the head without warning, and then called to his wife.
According to witnesses, Debra Banner ran downstairs screaming, “You killed my mom!” Banner then pointed his gun at his wife and fired into her chest several times, said the son in the report.

“He knelt down with the bodies,” said the teen, describing how his dad appeared to be performing some sort of religious ritual. “I know he did something with her blood.”

The 14-year-old said he and his dad stepped over the bodies and walked back upstairs into the bathroom, where Banner filled the bathtub with water until it overflowed. The father and son then got into the water to undergo what a detective described in a report as a “ceremonial cleansing.”

As the two bathed, Banner’s father-in-law, who also witnessed the shootings, ran outside in his underwear and told a neighbor to call 911. The couple’s other son, age 13, remained in his bedroom, where he had been hiding since he first heard gunshots.

When Orlando police arrived, Banner walked outside, according to the report. According to investigators, Banner ignored their commands to put down his weapon, so police shot and wounded the gunman. As Banner lied on the ground near the back door, his 14-year-old son approached.

“He just said, ‘I love you. I love you, son. I love you a lot.’ And I said, ‘I love you too, daddy.'”

Mr. Banner didn’t say a word the whole day he sat in the courtroom right across from me.  Our eyes met several times.  At the time I didn’t know the details of the crimes he’s accused of, only the charges.  Did he look like a psycho killer? No, but he did look off.  I suppose anyone would given the circumstances.  He didn’t say anything because it would seem he’s not going to be testifying in his own defense and instead invoking his right to remain silent. I will say that of all the lawyers in the room, he had the best tie.  The two lawyers for the state of Florida had very boring, conservative ties.  The lawyers for the defense were a bit better, but I really liked Elmer’s tie.  Why am I talking about ties?  Because I was sitting in the courtroom for close to eight hours with little to do but watch these guys.

So why wasn’t I picked for the Jury?

I’m pretty sure it’s because when asked if I would be able to find someone guilty by reason of temporary insanity, I replied that wasn’t likely.  I have a hard time believing that someone can be sane one moment, be insane the next, and then be sane again.  Add on to that that the only person who can truly give evidence as to the state of mind of the defendant at the time the crime was committed (aka the defendant himself) is opting not to testify … well, odds were I’d have a really hard time letting him off on an insanity defense.  I had to explain all this to the two defense lawyers, two lawyers for the state, the judge and Elmer himself as I was called in for a private questioning while they were in their final jury selection deliberations at the end of the day.  I can only guess that the reason I was called in along with about 2 or 3 other folks is because they were on the fence about us.

So I’m kinda bummed.  Yes, the trial is supposed to start today and last about 2 weeks and I’d miss work, but my company pays for jury duty and what great material for my next novel!  SO close … and yet so far … From a psycho killer … and a good book I’ll never write.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series, and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

7 Nov 2015: Just when you thought you had it right … You take some Flak!

Yep.  Some days, despite my years of working at this writing thing, some days I feel like I’m back in high school English class.  If I were magically transported back to Mrs. Emmenhiser’s class, I’d certainly give her a piece of my mind!

I recently bought a book that has lots of little things we commonly write wrong in it.  It’s a wonderful book … and also a torture device straight from the devil himself. I thought I’d share some of the items I’ve already found useful:

  • Blonde with the e at the end refers to a woman with Blonde hair.
  • Blond with no e refers to a man with blond hair.
  • Confidante with the e at the end refers to a female confidante.
  • Confidant with no e refers to a male confidant.
  • Back yard as one word means the yard at the back of the house. “Let’s go out into the backyard.”
  • Backyard as two words refers to something in the backyard, like “a backyard swimming pool.”

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  • A job perq, or a benefit of the job, is spelled perq, not perk.
  • North, south, east and west as directions are generally not capitalized. If they refer to a specific place like North America, then they are capitalized.

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  • Faint means dim, dizzy or slight.
  • Feint means a deceptive action, like “the boxed feinted with a left fist.”
  • Further is used in abstract situations like “she couldn’t go any further.”
  • Father is used for measurable distances, like “the house is farther away than then barn.”
  • Flak is criticism or ground based antiaircraft fire. “I took a lot of flak for my suggestions.”
  • Flack is a press agent. “The flack sent out the press release.”

So did any of this surprise you?

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series, and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.